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Book

Andrew Walton, William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, and Tom Parr

Should the state permit euthanasia? Should it prohibit recreational drug use? Should it ban hate speech? Should it grant members of minority groups exemptions from otherwise universal laws? When, if ever, should it intervene in the affairs of other states to prevent human rights abuses? All of these questions have been prominent in political debate over the last fifty years, and there remains plenty of dispute about them at the start of the 2020s. Political arguments about public policy are an apt subject of philosophical analysis—or, in other words, they present a prime opportunity to do some political philosophy. This book provides an introduction to political philosophy by theorizing about public policy. Each of the chapters draws on the tools of political philosophy to explore a distinct area of public policy. Each case identifies some of the moral threads that run through the public policy debate; explains the philosophical positions taken by the various sides; introduces the academic literature that supports these positions; and examines the strengths and weaknesses of the competing views.

Chapter

William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter provides an overview of how to do political philosophy. It identifies some of the main aims of the discipline, showing that one can make progress with the subject by studying arguments about the justifiability of various public policies. Political philosophers are mostly concerned with exploring the moral claims of an argument, and the relationship between an argument’s claims and its conclusion. It is here that the discipline connects to other parts of philosophy, particularly moral philosophy and logic. This chapter discusses two tools in the practice of political philosophy. One of these involves arranging arguments in clear and organized terms, and the other involves the use of examples and thought experiments in the analysis of moral claims. The chapter then discusses how to employ these tools in the service of a political argument.

Chapter

This edition provides an introduction to the major schools of thought that dominate contemporary debates in political philosophy. The focus is on theories which have attracted a certain allegiance, and which offer a more or less comprehensive vision of the ideals of politics. The text examines the notion, advanced by Ronald Dworkin, that every plausible political theory has the same ultimate value, which is equality. It considers another, more abstract and more fundamental, idea of equality in political theory — namely, the idea of treating people ‘as equals’. It also explores what it might mean for libertarianism to have freedom as its foundational value, or for utilitarianism to have utility as its foundational value. Finally, it analyses the relationship between moral and political philosophy and argues that the ultimate test of a theory of justice is that it should be concordant with, and help illuminate, our convictions of justice.

Chapter

This text explores the main questions of political philosophy and looks at some of the most influential answers, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Each chapter takes on a particular question or controversy. The natural starting-point is political power, the right to command. The first chapter considers the question of what would happen in a ‘state of nature’ without government, while the second tackles the problem of political obligation. The third chapter is concerned with democracy, asking whether a state should be democratic, for example, or whether there is any rationale for preferring rule by the people to rule by an expert. The next two chapters deal with liberty and property. The text concludes by focusing on questions that have drawn greater attention in more recent decades, such as issues of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, immigration, global justice, and justice to future generations.

Book

An Introduction to Political Philosophy provides and introduction to the subject, combining clarity and a conversational style with a thought-provoking account of the central questions of the discipline. The text explores the subject through a series of enduring and timeless questions, jumping centuries and millennia to explore the most influential answers and demonstrate the relevance of political philosophy for an understanding of contemporary issues. This new edition has been updated to include the on-going developments in multiculturalism and global justice, as well as in human rights and deliberative democracy.

Chapter

Katrin A. Flikschuh

This chapter examines the political ideas of Immanuel Kant. Kant is widely regarded as a precursor to current political liberalism. There are many aspects of Kant's political philosophy, including his property argument, that remain poorly understood and unjustly neglected. Many other aspects, including his cosmopolitanism, reveal Kant as perhaps one of the most systematic and consistent political thinkers. Underlying all these aspects of his political philosophy is an abiding commitment to his epistemological method of transcendental idealism. After providing a short biography of Kant, this chapter considers his epistemology as well as the relationship between virtue and justice in his practical philosophy. It also explores a number of themes in Kant's political thinking, including the idea of external freedom, the nature of political obligation, the vindication of property rights, the denial of a right to revolution, and the cosmopolitan scope of Kantian justice.

Chapter

Tony Burns

This chapter examines the argument of Aristotle's Politics in relation to the theory of justice that he articulates in his Nicomachean Ethics. It first provides a biography of Aristotle before discussing his view of human nature, the starting point for understanding his views on both ethics and politics. In particular, it considers what Aristotle means when he describes man as a ‘social and political animal’ (zoon politikon). It goes on to explore the theory of justice developed in Aristotle's Ethics, focusing on the notions of proportional and arithmetical equality. It also analyses the two areas of social life in which the concept of justice has a practical application: the spheres of rectificatory and distributive justice. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the continuing relevance of Aristotle for political philosophy today, especially for the debate between John Rawls and his communitarian critics.

Book

Contemporary Political Philosophy has been revised to include many of the most significant developments in Anglo-American political philosophy in the last eleven years, particularly the new debates on political liberalism, deliberative democracy, civic republicanism, nationalism, and cultural pluralism. The text now includes two new chapters on citizenship theory and multiculturalism, in addition to updated chapters on utilitarianism, liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism, socialism, communitarianism, and feminism. The many thinkers discussed include G. A. Cohen, Ronald Dworkin, William Galston, Carol Gilligan, R. M. Hare, Catherine Mackinnon, David Miller, Philippe Van Parijs, Susan Okin, Robert Nozick, John Rawls, John Roemer, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer, and Iris Young.

Chapter

Nathan Widder

This chapter examines Friedrich Nietzsche's political philosophy, first by focusing on his claim that the ‘death of God’ inaugurates modern nihilism. It then explains Nietzsche's significance for political theory by situating him, on the one hand, against the Platonist and Christian traditions that dominate political philosophy and, on the other hand, with contemporary attempts to develop a new political theory of difference. The chapter also considers Nietzsche's genealogical method and proceeds by analysing the three essays of On the Genealogy of Morals, along with his views on good and bad, good and evil, slave morality, the ascetic ideal, and the nihilism of modern secularism. Finally, it reviews contemporary interpretations of Nietzsche's relation and relevance to political theory and how his philosophy has inspired a broader set of trends that has come to be known as ‘the ontological turn in political theory’.

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David Boucher

This chapter examines Michael Oakeshott's political thought, beginning with a discussion of his scepticism and its relation to the background theory of British idealism that informs all aspects of his philosophy. It then considers Oakeshott's belief that philosophy is the uncovering and questioning of the postulates upon which all our forms of understanding rest. Oakeshott has been characterized as a conservative, a liberal, and an ideologist, but this chapter argues that he was neither conservative nor liberal in any party-political sense. It goes on to analyse Oakeshott's views on the rationalist in politics, civil association and the rule of law, and politics and law as well as his characterization of the modern European state. The chapter concludes by assessing the importance Oakeshott attached to myth and legend in the self-consciousness of a society.

Chapter

Frederick Rosen

This chapter examines some of Socrates' key political ideas. Socrates was the first philosopher to see the connections and the potential opposition between the search for truth and the world of politics. Among Socrates' most important ideas are the so-called Socratic paradoxes, the method of question and answer (the elenchus), and the use of craft analogies. The chapter first provides a biographical background on Socrates and some information about him before discussing the Socratic paradoxes and the elenchus. It then describes the trial of Socrates through Plato's dialogues Apology and Crito. Socrates shows how the quest for wisdom challenges the acknowledged experts and leaders in society, but at the same time looks for points of reconciliation so that politics will not be wholly devoid of contact with truth and justice. The chapter also considers Socrates' political philosophy and concludes with an assessment of his attachment to Athenian democracy.

Chapter

This chapter examines some issues that have come to greater attention in more recent decades, with particular emphasis on what it calls ‘oversights’ of justice. It begins by arguing that some of the greatest political philosophers had suffered from ‘oversights’, notably Karl Marx, Mary Wollstonecraft, and John Stuart Mill. It then considers some of these oversights of justice, first by looking at issues of gender equality, then at racial justice, followed by issues of disability and sexual orientation, each from the standpoint of what is known as ‘domestic justice’: justice as it operates within a single state. It also explores questions of global justice, including immigration, and global inequalities of wealth, along with justice to future generations, especially in relation to climate change. These discussions reflect areas of great contemporary concern, both in political philosophy and in real life.

Chapter

Jeremy Waldron

This chapter examines and defends the relevance of John Locke's writings as political philosophy. Locke's political philosophy continues to have an enormous impact on the framing and the pursuit of liberal ideas in modern political thought — ideas about social contract, government by consent, natural law, equality, individual rights, civil disobedience, and private property. The discussion and application of Locke's arguments is thus an indispensable feature of political philosophy as it is practised today. After providing a short biography of Locke, the chapter considers his views on equality and natural law, property, economy, and disagreement, as well as limited government, toleration, and the rule of law. It concludes with an assessment of Locke's legacy as a political thinker.